F1 round-up – 9 January 2015

McLaren’s lack of a title sponsor, the disadvantages of being a Wolff and the FIA’s new super licence points system dominated the week in F1.

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Eric Bouiller was quoted as saying that McLaren may run without a title sponsor in 2015 – the second successive season. At a time when Marussia are bust, Caterham in administration and rumours persist regarding other teams, it appears at first glance to be a big issue.

The extent of McLaren’s partnership with Honda should however put pay to any concerns. It is much more than simply an engine supply deal and is almost certainly more significant than the close ties between Renault and Red Bull. Significant savings will be realised by McLaren over the likes of Williams and Lotus – as demonstrated by Alonso’s allegedly massive salary – which will offset any loss of sponsorship income. Even the saving from not paying for the turbo-hybrid engines alone is significant.

Honda’s involvement may even preclude significant coverage for a title sponsor (their new livery might go a long way to answering that one) but if not, in the short term it will not be a significant concern for the team. Longer term McLaren will certainly want to address the matter and with Alonso in the team and success, possibly, on the horizon it should not be a huge undertaking.

Mr & Mrs Wolff

After indulging in some mind games with McLaren and Williams last week, Toto Wolff was defending his wife Susie this week. The Mercedes team boss believes that Susie Wolff’s racing career has been compromised by her surname .

Whilst already established in the DTM before marrying, her elevation to test duties with Williams raised eyebrows at the time given her husband’s shareholding in the team. Wolff is certainly a talented driver – mixing it in the midfield of the DTM does not imply mediocrity – but it seems a stretch to imagine her role with Williams had nothing to do with Toto’s shareholding. Whilst it is probably fair to say that her surname will hurt her in F1 as long as Toto continues to lead the Mercedes F1 team, it is hard to imagine it did not assist in some way to get her there in the first place.

Points make prizes

Most interesting this week was the announcement of the FIA’s new super licence points system. It polarised opinion sharply and led to some fun stats about which current and former F1 drivers – including myriad World Champions – would have been unable to obtain a super licence to race at the very top.

For many it has gone a long way to crystallising the path from junior formulae to F1. Channelling drivers (and teams) through the GP3, GP2 and mooted F2 series can be viewed as ensuring proper preparation for the pinnacle of the sport. Conversely it was viewed by many as a crass exercise in forcing teams, drivers and most importantly cash towards FIA aligned events over recent successful interlopers – chiefly the World Series by Renault. It certainly appears very difficult to argue with the latter given that winning an IndyCar championship is equivalent to a European F3 title.

The length of time the FIA stick rigidly to the new system will however be fascinating. When you consider that Red Bull would have been thwarted in their attempts to elevate the likes of Verstappen, Sainz, Ricciardo and Vergne to F1, it does set up a political banana skin for the future.

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